“He Touched Me” is without a doubt Bill Gaither Trio’s most famous song.
Released in 1969, off the trio’s album Heartwarming, several artists have recorded the song, including Jimmy Durante, Connie Smith, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Elvis Presley.
The Song That Changed Bill Gaither’s Career
Written by Bill Gaither himself, “He Touched Me” helped the American singer and songwriter propelled onto the national stage. Gaither had been writing songs since 1960, but nothing struck the chord with the American public – but everything changed fifty-four songs later.
“I started writing in 1960 and had written a few that were strong songs, but nothing had made an impact on a national level yet,” Gaither said. “That all changed with ‘He Touched Me.'”
The story behind the song started from an old preacher friend of Gaither named Dr. Dale Oldham, whom he recalled to be such a “very eloquent speaker.” While accompanying Oldham on some evangelistic crusades, the old preacher one day mentioned to him:
“The word ‘touch’ is a very powerful word. It come up so often in the New Testament stories about Jesus touching people’s eyes and healing them or touching people’s lives and changing them. It’s a special word, and you ought to write a song that praises His touch.”
After that conversation, Gaither drove back to his home in Anderson, Indiana, with Dr. Oldham and his son, Doug. The seed of the song’s idea further deepened when the three started talking about how deeply the Spirit of God was felt during the crusade meetings. When he finally dropped them off, Dr. Oldham told him once again, “You should write a song that says, ‘He touched me’ oh, He touched me.”
Gaither had a hard time sleeping that night, unable to shake off what the old preacher told him, so he did what he said – Gaither wrote, “He Touched Me.”
“Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame. Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same. He touched me, oh He touched me. And oh, the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know, he touched me and made me whole,” the song goes.
Pastor Oldham’s son Doug was the first to record the song in 1964, and it quickly became popular in the circles he was singing it in. It turned out to be even more popular in the churches as concert-goers were bringing it back to their congregations and singing it as a chorus. The song indeed exploded!
“It’s funny, you write fifty-three songs, and then you write one little baby, and even though it comes out of the womb the same way they all did, this baby just all of a sudden goes boom!” Gaither said.
In 1965, American Christian music group, The Imperials, first recorded “He Touched Me” for their album The Happy Sounds of Jake Hess. The group then recorded a newer version later in 1969 for their album Love Is The Thing. It was this version the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, heard and convinced him to record it himself.
Presley did it in 1971. With the Imperials as backup singers, Presley’s “He Touched Me” was finally released as a single. It was also the title track of his 1972 Grammy Award-winning album.
“I finally got a copy of his record. I just stood there saying, ‘Hey, Elvis is singing my song! But that was all a bonus. I just really love the song,” Gaither said.
Listen to the song in the video below.
Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band